The role of radioprotective spacers in clinical practice: a review

Qiuying Tang, Feng Zhao, Xiaokai Yu, Lingyun Wu, Zhongjie Lu, Senxiang Yan


The delivery of high dose radiotherapy to tumors is often limited by the proximity of the surrounding radiosensitive normal tissues, even using modern techniques such as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Previous studies have reported that placement of a spacer can effectively displace normal tissues. So that they are some distance away from the lesion, thus allowing for the safe delivery of high-dose radiation. The application of radioprotective spacers was first reported 30 years ago regarding radiotherapy of tongue and abdominal cancers; more recently, they are increasingly being used in prostate cancer. This review focuses on the published data concerning the features of different types of spacers and their application in various tumor sites. Placement-related complications and the cost-effectiveness of the spacers are also discussed. With the increasing use of high-precision radiotherapy in clinical practice, especially the paradigm-changing stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), more robust studies are warranted to further establish the role of radioprotective spacers through materials development and novel placement techniques.